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Please die, Survivor’s Do or Die, for threatening great strategy with a dumb game of chance

Please die, Survivor’s Do or Die, for threatening great strategy with a dumb game of chance
Survivor 42's final seven before learning about the latest dumb twist: Jonathan Young, Omar Zaheer, Mike Turner, Drea Wheeler, Romeo Escobar, Maryanne Oketch, and Lindsay Dolashewich. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

Survivor 42’s 10th episode opened with a carved version of the show’s logo, propped up in shallow water, and then falling over and floating away. That’s a good metaphor for what (nearly) happened when Survivor brought back yet another one of the dumb twists from last season.

The second Jeff Probst started talking to the camera and told us “today is the dangerous do or die twist,” my heart sank, because up until then, we’d had a wonderful, character-driven, strategy-focused episode.

For example, Mike was “feeling high after Hai,” as Omar brilliantly put it. Mike was about to “become what he was accusing Hai of doing.”

And Mike was full of sass, saying “We lopped [Hai’s] head off, just like he deserved,” and adding that “his peasants banded together.” Mike gave himself credit for all this: “quite frankly, I orchestrated it right from the beginning.”

Mike banded together for a final five alliance with Omar, Lindsay, Drea, and Jonathan. “I give you my word,” he said, and then immediately turned around and started planning to stab one of them, Drea, in the back.

Drea Wheeler on day 10 of Survivor 42, before being blindsided
Drea Wheeler on day 10 of Survivor 42, before being blindsided. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

Meanwhile, Jonathan was both drained and annoyed, pouting over the fact that 1) he’s bigger but is fed the same amount as all the Lilliputians, and 2) everyone is not worshipping him as their provider god. Perhaps if they spent time tying him to the beach he’d feel more appreciated?

Jonathan actually said, in an interview, “The provider is supposed to get props.” Do Jonathan fans see how bad he is at the social game, or do we have another Xander situation that’s going to happen this season?

There were also interesting moments ranging from Romeo’s outsider status (“Screw them. I’m not doing anything for anybody but myself out here,” he said) to Maryanne’s tiny toenail’s regular exit from her foot.

Finally, Lindsay and Drea now have a steal-a-vote, because Hai’s part of the amulet is gone. Lindsay said, “The game’s getting spicy now!”

Yes it was. Cue Jeff Probst insisting that bland food is so much better, and pouring water all over what we just saw.

Please do die Do or Die

In an amazing coincidence—since this cast did not see season 41—both twists that appeared played out identically to last season.

Lindsay was faced with the Do or Die twist, also known as Jeff Probst really wishes he was hosting Let’s Make a Deal.

It presented her with the Monty Hall Problem, and as Hai whispered on the jury, “You always swap.”

She didn’t, just like Deshawn did not, either, during Survivor 41. Both beat the odds and found the flame, staying in the game.

Meanwhile, Drea’s attempt to steal Mike’s idol with one of her 122 advantages failed, because she’d told Omar what she was going to do.

This possibility played out at camp. Presented with the idea that they could use Drea’s Knowledge is Power to get Mike out, Omar realized he could use that to basically steal Mike’s idol. We didn’t see this actually happen until a Tribal Council flashback, when Mike gave his idol to Omar. (Omar is going to win this game, isn’t he?)

That meant Drea could not steal Mike’s idol, just as Liana couldn’t steal Xander’s idol.

I will admit that both of these advantages made for great individual moments. That does not justify either twist’s existence, though.

The problem, as Omar articulated, is that all of the machinations set in play before and after the immunity challenge could simply be erased.

“And yet, none of this may matter,” Omar said, pointing out we’d be “back to square one” next week.

I’d honestly like to know how Survivor’s producers justify twists that completely nullify actual game play. I understand Probst’s boner for forcing the cast to make choices (even though that happens without his intervention, but I digress).

But why allow those choices to obliterate organic choices? Clearly, they sometimes create a good moment of television, and that’s all that matters, I guess?

By the way, I’d guess the producers and editors chose to Omar’s critique of their decision in the episode because they knew that the outcome was.

One of the other things that bugs me about the Do or Die twist—wait, should I explain that I don’t like it?!—is that it’s presented as a choice but isn’t actually explained.

Probst introduced it as a “potentially deadly game of chance,” in which “nothing can protect you. It is you against the game.”

But critically, he did not actually explain what that meant: a two-thirds chance you’ll join the jury for just picking the wrong box.

Given the chance to play Jeff Probst’s Reindeer Games or not, five out of the seven players opted out. That left Lindsay and Jonathan to balance on a thing, and Jonathan won immunity yet again.

At camp, Drea was hopeful Lindsay would pick the wrong box, thereby turning her amulet into a hidden immunity idol, giving her yet another tool.

But Drea also said there was a “very weird vibe,” and so at Tribal Council, she played all of the advantages she could: Her Knowledge is Power and her extra vote.

It was not enough, and Drea was voted out.

If you, like me, thought Hai’s exit last week set a new bar for exuberant exists, with his actual excitement at his own blindside, that bar was quickly raised.

Drea now takes the trophy for the most spectacularly enthusiastic exit imaginable. She gave hugs, she ran back and forth from her torch to the tribe, and she rattled off names and spilled her knowledge with a smile.

Among the things Drea said was that Mike would win (“kiss of death,” he said) and that she’d told only Omar about her Knowledge is Power advantage.

All of this was capped off by Drea herself declaring that the tribe had spoken.

“Never seen a moment like this,” Probst said. Yes, indeed. And we almost didn’t get it. That’s why you trust your players and your format. You don’t need games of chance to create drama. You just need great people.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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Happy discussing!

Marilyn Whitehurst

Monday 16th of May 2022

Wonderful format , love to see others opinions of Survivor and other reality type shows not solely based on emotions .

Stephen

Thursday 12th of May 2022

Is it just me or anyone else tired of endurance competitions. We have them like 7 times in a row. I understand it's cheaper to do and I know that Dalton Ross changed Jeff's mind on it, as Dalton was bored of puzzle challenges, but the endurance comps are boring and not engaging. The last few endurance comps lasted but 15 minutes in real time (I understand about unions and all that, don't want another Palau final 3 happening again), but I am tired of them. They need to bring back old school skill based challenges for individual immunity!

Stephen

Friday 13th of May 2022

@Tracy, They won't do the memory one, because Jeff thinks it is boring for viewers (and endurance comps aren't?), even though he put a Twitter post out during Cagayan Era asking if we liked them th or if we hated them and majority of us liked them, because we like to play along. Touchy Subjects will never be a thing, because of San Juan Del Sur, unfortunately. That is my favorite challenge (they did it 3 times in Pearl Islands). I liked the boxes challenge from Australian Outback and all the moving challenges (final 6 of South Pacific). Australian Survivor does a lot of endurance comps as well, but they bring some new ones in, so idk about that one. Just more skill or fun challenges would be appreciated.

Stephen

Friday 13th of May 2022

@Scott Hardie, I LOVE Simmotion. They consider that an endurance competition, but its a good one. They are doing it because of cost, which is understandable, but they could do more challenges like the reward challenge that Lindsey one. That was simple and that could be an immunity challenge EASY. Since they are in Fiji, they have all the challenges from past seasons, so they can do the Unformortably Numb challenge or When It Rains, It Pours challenge more times than other ones. They could do more skill based challenges, as they don't need puzzles in them. I miss when they did the immunity challenge at merge and final 4/3, with maybe one in-between, but not from Final 11-7, BORING!!!

Jim

Friday 13th of May 2022

@Stephen, yes, came here to say the same thing. It's gotten so old. We also don't see as much mental play come from them as from, say, the rope chopping challenge. Those types of challenges brought another layer to the game whereas continuous endurance gives only a few a chance.

Scott Hardie

Thursday 12th of May 2022

@Stephen, Yes, very tired of endurance challenges! They appeared a little in the early seasons (including Borneo) to keep late-game challenges fair for both genders by not requiring strength, but they've become much more common. Survivor's challenges were so good for so long that I don't think the people making it have noticed how stagnant and perfunctory the challenge portion of the show has become. You see small variations sometimes like a new puzzle shape, but it's basically the same tasks over and over and over. What was the last truly new task in a challenge? When players were tied up and had to slither like snakes through the sand (first seen in Millennials vs Gen X in 2016)? When balls were released into a multi-track metal slide and players had to catch and re-insert them one-handed (first seen in Tocantins in 2009)? It's been so very long since the game has truly shown us something different.

Melissa

Thursday 12th of May 2022

@Tracy, YES!! And the gross eating challenges.

Scott

Thursday 12th of May 2022

Why wouldn’t the provider get props? Where would the tribe be without him? His loss would impact the tribe more than anyone else hands down! Further, Jonathan is entirely correct in his calorie burn versus other players - go back to beginning of season and see how much he’s slimmed down. And yet, he still outlasted Lyndsey in the challenge - monster feet and all - give him his due. Sure - bash him for lack of tact in his strategic approach, but he’s one of the best ever when it comes to physical dominance. Clearly Andy is not a fan, but a strategy to rely primarily (or only if you want) on physical prowess is still a strategy. If he doesn’t win immunity he’s in serious trouble, but if he continues to do so - he’ll be in the finals!

Catlover04

Saturday 14th of May 2022

@~ZZZ~, Popped into say... are you the ZZZ I used to know? And I also like Johnathan. But one must agree that as a strategist, he is a bit of a dolt. As a social player... hit and miss. He's had some good moments. This episode wasn't his best, for sure, but one can appreciate his sentiments. But... he and Lindsay are both lightyears ahead on the challenge front. If the rest of them were smart, they might consider removing them both the first chance they get. I'm hoping they are NOT smart, and they both end up in the final 3 with Lindsay winning. Lindsay is my favorite. There are those in the other place I chat that think Omar has a good shot to win. hmm. Go Lindsay. I think she has the full package of physical, social and strategy.

Stumbled in here for the first time. Enjoyed the recap.

~ZZZ~

Thursday 12th of May 2022

@Scott, I still really like Jonathan a lot. I don't blame him one bit for being mad. If it were me, I would have GONE OFF on Drea. He singlehandedly won how many challenges for the team before the merge?

I was so happy he won, and I really thought Lindsay would win because he is getting weaker.

GO Jonathan

Robert Karp

Thursday 12th of May 2022

The most interesting moment in the episode was Lindsay surprised that everyone except Jonathan sat out the immunity challenge. She had thought that at least one more person would participate. Also Jonathan kept looking at the perch he would have to stand on with his huge feet before the choice was made. That was hilarious.

Not sure why everyone is hating on Jonathan. In other seasons the "providers" would also complain that no one gave them props for fishing, etc. I'm sure the producers encouraged him to confess about his low caloric intake. I get he is grumpy. I do agree his social game isn't very good.

This cast is lucky they don't have to do 39 days. I wonder if the game will ever go back to 39 days or is this the new normal because it will be cheaper?

Andy: a question worth asking the producers?

Stella

Thursday 12th of May 2022

Am I the only one that turns the sound off during challenges so I don’t have to listen to Jeff. If I was a player time to concentrate and get in the zone I would have a few choice words for his incessant talking. When is he gonna learn is not about him.

Melissa

Thursday 12th of May 2022

@Stella, Never. He's never going to learn and that's unfortunate.

~ZZZ~

Thursday 12th of May 2022

@Stella, He gets worse every season. I used to love Jeff. Now I can't stand him. STFU during challenges. SO sick of hearing him say This is what its all about! Dig deep, how much is left in your tank? OMG Shut up

And don't get me started on they way he is when the family member visit... How do you FEEL? What is it about your ____ that makes you so happy to see them?

GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!